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"Spring Frolic" Dock Diving at FWCAD

Updated: May 9, 2019

Imagine Dock Diving at FWCAD like a really great family gathering and you are part of the family!

Big Weekend for "Deuce" with a 30' jump!
Big Weekend for "Deuce" with a 30' jump!

A "Spring Frolic" in Florida

Going somewhere new is a challenge to many and even more pronounced for many veterans. It is always a main concern when reviewing dog clubs and training centers in Florida. This concern evaporated before it even appeared in a visit to the Florida West Coast Air Dogs (FWCAD) in Bradenton, Florida

In a busy dog event season, my time is spread very thin, but when John Gattignolo from FWCAD asked me to come down and see their event that weekend, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse as we continue to look for the very best places in C. Florida to go play for you and your own Bad Azz Dogz. The FWCAD was one on top of the list of places to review.

The Club with Benefits

Florida West Coast Air Dogs is both training center and a club. A hybrid that offers many activities, benefits and importantly, access to the facilities to members to play far more with their own dogs.

That access is especially noteworthy as Barb and John seem to keep the doors open more than most any place we have seen.

Bradenton sits about half way between St. Petersburg and Sarasota. The area is less transient for tourists and “snow-birds” in Central Florida’s west coast and has more rural expanses.

In such places, you can sometimes find little known treasures, and Florida West Coast Air Dogs (FWCAD) was a very special find for any who have visited.

Many people live only a few miles away and were unaware it was even there, but once they visited, they keep coming back. A common response I heard from several club members.

FWCAD is located within the long established Bradenton Dog Stars facility that offers a very wide variety of training and activities including most popular dog sports and training programs.

Barb & John

The FWCAD Training facility is the brainchild of John Gattignolo and his wife Barb Lentz. John manages the facility and Barb handles training. Both have decades of experience.

John is a USAF veteran but has since been a teacher of industrial electricity and been facility manager for hospitals and large retail centers. Barb has both school teacher and dog trainer with multiple major accomplishments in her resume, including circus dogs.

Barb’s experience is quite overwhelming and includes multiple sports from Dock Diving to Agility, Lure Coursing, Obedience, and Flyball.

Even after retiring from the Sarasota County Schools after 36 years of teaching, Barb continued teaching for five additional years at the Sarasota Military Academy.

The couple’s passion and mentoring are well known, but I have been especially struck by the sense of a welcoming environment. It isn’t just by chance either. Everything from the bright colors, pristine waters in the pool, night lights, and a very large community tent are all intended to set visitors at ease and encourage them to interact.

Barb and John met online and their first date was at an Applebee’s restaurant. They hit it off immediately with shared values and their uncommon love of people and dogs.

The Only reason he got to hang around was because the dogs liked him” – Barb Lentz

Barb starts most new members with a private lesson to allow them to be evaluated for needs and potential, but again, it is the personal engagement that makes the difference to many if not most. Classes, events, social activities and special workshops are part of the goings on at this very active facility.

Dock Diving

Dock Diving dogs often conjure images of gun dogs cooling in a fun YouTube video. Jumping into a lake in some part of rural America. That is completely accurate, but this game has come a long way from its roots that go back far further in our country than the internet.

Today, there are multiple national and international Dock Diving Dog leagues with major competitions and championships. It’s going big league. With that, there is often a less personal and more a sense of a business in dog sports.

FWCAD is one of our leading Dock Diving centers in Florida, and yet, it feels like a big family gathering any time you go there, but without the drama. It also represents the core values of Ultimate Air Dogs (UAD) founder Milt Wilcox.

“…a down to earth attitude, grass-roots background, and ability to make every competitor feel welcome!” – Milt Wilcox, UAD

I spoke to Milt at the UAD Winter Nationals recently, and he was very clear that this sense of welcome and willingness to adapt programs to those with special needs were central to his vision of dog sports.

I cover Dock Dogs frequently and continue to urge you to check out this fun game for energetic, toy driven dogs.

The first step… or Splash

FWCAD is a very personal place. From the physical layout, to the heartfelt welcome you receive. This is reflected in their approach to training too. With new students first meeting being a personal evaluation, but also a chance to ask questions and be set at ease. Games range from the traditional "Splash" distance jump into the pool, to "Chase it" which is rather like a doggy water drag racing. More information on all the various games and activities are available on the official UAD page.

Veterans Welcome

As the Bad Azz Dogz is committed to connecting our disabled military and 1st Responder veterans with activities with their dogs, it is a key part of any review I do. John and Barb’s commitment was no less than my own and very clear to me that their programs and facilities are among the very best suited to our ideals for those we hope will take that first step to seeing their furry best friends have something to do beyond sitting around looking at them all day. FWCAD continues to show sincere willingness and action to meet the needs of our disabled veterans.

“We are absolutely willing and want to do all we can to help… our vets” - John Gattignolo

The contact information is at the end of this feature, and I strongly recommend FWCAD for those with concerns and special needs. Please feel free to contact me at first if you would like to ask questions of a fellow veteran first.

Wrapping Up

Dock Diving is a sport that makes you smile just thinking about it. The game is simple and as I hope you can see, it is very diverse in all breeds of dog and humans alike. However, a fun game can only be made truly enjoyable by the people you are surrounded by and it is that element that can be the greatest barrier to many taking that first step to attending an event.

That concern seems to evaporate every time I visit FWCAD. Everything from the warm welcome to a clean organized layout helps you to relax with your dog and just do what you came for. Have fun with your best friend. Barb Lentz and John Gattignolo have the love of thousands in our Florida community because of this.

Diz place is certified Bad Azz! ” - Bristol, Bad Azz Dogz

Special Photo-Feature

FWCAD Spring Frolic Dock Diving Florida West Coast Air Dogs Bradenton , FL

A picture tells a thousand words and the action on the dock and at the event really needs to be seen to appreciate what a fun time this game is for both owner and dog alike.

Please Remember: You may share photos of your own and friends dogs, but please give credit and please help us help more dogs, veterans and dog owners.

Saturday 27 APR 2019 First Day of Dock Diving Competition

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Sunday 28 APR 2019

Practice and "Fetch-It" Competition

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Sunday 28 APR 2019

Dock Diving Action 10am-1pm

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Sunday 28 APR 2019

Dock Diving Action 1pm-4pm

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More Information:

Florida West Coast Air Dogs (FWCAD) Dog Training and Club

A full facility with a permanent dock that resides inside the larger @Bradenton Dog Stars in Bradenton, Florida. Vents, Training and Clinics with a permanent Dock on site. Covered areas and some facilities for disabled. There is no permanent disabled bathroom or ramp access. If you have concerns or need further information on personal needd? Contact Info: On the Web

5006 34th Ave E. Bradenton, FL 34208

T / 941-374-9663

Bradenton Dog Stars Trainer / Kennel


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